My name is Ken Opalo. I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at Stanford completing my dissertation under the direction of Prof. David Laitin (The other members of my Dissertation Committee are Professors James Fearon, Stephen Haber and Jeremy Weinstein).

My dissertation focuses on the political economy of institutional development. Specifically, I explore the determinants of the observed variation in the political strength and institutionalization of African legislatures since the end of the Cold War. My dissertation increases our understanding of the dynamics of contemporary institutional change, and in particular, how institutions of limited government can emerge from their autocratic foundations.

My findings also have practical policy implications for several ongoing legislative strengthening programs across the globe. Different organizations as varied as the Canadian Parliamentary Care, USAID, CIDA, Sida, DfiD, UNDP and the World Bank are involved in parliamentary strengthening programs in dozens of countries around the world under the banner of democracy promotion and institutional capacity building. Democracy assistance, a good part of which includes legislative strengthening, is now a $5 billion industry. My findings speak to possible ways through which legislative strengthening programs can either complement or detract from the larger goal of democracy promotion and consolidation.

Over the last 5 years I have been fortunate to be able to mix my graduate training with practical experiences consulting for the Kofi Annan Foundation (on elections, democracy and security), the World Bank (on natural resources and shared regional infrastructure) and working with other partners at the IPRE Group on an impact evaluation project in Ghana. I am passionate about real world policy issues that touch on development and my writings on these issues have appeared on the African Development Bank’s blog, the Monkey Cage, Al Jazeera America and Foreign Policy. I have also appeared on interviews with the BBC and Al Jazeera.

I am a native of Nairobi, Kenya (also know as the best city in the world, with a National Park 15 minutes from downtown) who loves to travel and have worked, visited or conducted research in more than 10 different African countries in the eastern, southern and western parts of the Continent.

I am a proud alum of Mang’u High School and got my BA from Yale.

You can also find me on twitter.

In my spare time I like to travel, read and write. I love trains.

I am also a columnist for the Saturday Standard and a partner at IPRE Group.

33 thoughts on “About

  1. I stumbled on ur blog n I like ur articles. Just to confirm, r u a Mang’u alumni?ur name does sound very familiar, u may not knw me ‘coz i was a year behind u.nway,u keep up ur work n congratz.


  2. This caught me by surprise…. I did not know you had a blog. Nice work. I am so proud of you. Inbox me on FB so that we can catch up.

    I have to say…. i am surprised to see u majored in political science. I never saw u as a politics person. I just finished my bachelors in Legal Studies and i am currently pursuing an MBA in international management which i am finishing this summer. I am scheduled to start my Law school in August. I have been accepted to several schools but i have not yet decided which school as i am still waiting for several scholarship decisions due by end of March. Visit my website at http://www.paralegalandnotaryservices.com to see what i have been upto.


  3. I’ve always silently followed your web presence (do I hear a scream, STALKER!). I like the redesign of the site. A proud Mang’uman myself (which pride though, wavers in the face of the hatred that I had for the Deputy Principle during my time) glad to see you going places.
    One of my earliest memorable moments in Mang’u was my first day as a “nyani” in “Maths Club”, of which you were the chairperson if my memory serves me right? I will not delve into the details seeing as “my thoughts” are turning into a term paper (!)
    Suffice is to say I will soon (fingers crossed, and crossed over again) be graduating with a BS in Aerospace Engineering and Computational Math. The Aero was always in me, but the math I picked from an admiration of you and the bespectacled Brother Raymond captain whose name I completely blank on, and of course your namesake Kennedy Opala who was my classmate and sat behind me for the last 2 years of high school.
    We’re a long way since Mang’u but I hope to see you one day, maybe even work with you. You were, still are, a hero of mine.
    I wish you the best in your endeavours.
    Jishinde Ushinde!


  4. Ken, let me know when you are completed with your exams. I may consider you as a keynote speaker during my book launch later next month, that is if we share the same vision over my project. Details will follow once the last-minute preparations with the publisher are done. Regards.


  5. Hello Ken,
    I direct a NGO, Global Ethos, in Limuru. We are bringing some much needed attention to the plight of the boy child in Kenya. I’d like to get your thoughts on the subject. We will begin working with Thigio Boys and Ngenia High School in the coming months. I will travel to Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy and Urban Prep to study their programs. I’m not sure all the Lord will do but I know He will give us the way forward. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.



  6. In your article “Give Kagame a Break,” your quote from African Arguments is actually a misquote. The actual quote, copied and pasted, is: “When a similar situation occurred in Sierra Leone, the Special Court for Sierra Leone went after the main supporters and funders of the rebel movement, in particular the President of Liberia, Charles Taylor. ”

    Charles Taylor was tried by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, not the International Criminal Court.


  7. Hi Ken,
    I reside in Nairobi and write for a website called urb.im which I think you might be interested in checking out. We are a worldwide platform that explores urban poverty-related issues and generates discussions over positive initiatives and developments in the field of urban poverty reduction.

    This is the link: http://urb.im/

    Oh and feel free to join any of the ongoing conversations or write about us if you want :)


  8. Katy,

    Thanks for your comment. Is there any particular issue/aspect of your operations that you would want me to write about?



  9. Hi Ken,
    Thank you for getting back to me and forgive me for my late response! Funnily enough I am in Palo Alto visiting family at the moment so if you are in Stanford we are in fact quite geographically near.
    In answer to your question, given the focus of your blog, it would be interesting for me to know how from the point of view of a Kenyan academic you view the work we do on urb.im and what impact you believe an operation like ours can have on alleviating urban poverty in a place like Nairobi.
    We recently had an article on us published in the huffington post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-durham/nairobi-urban-slums_b_2360273.html) which clearly outlines what we do an its relevance in a Nairobi context.
    It would be great if you would like to share your views on this either via your own blog or by commenting on an article on the website that you find relevant to your work (or even better writing the article and then joining our community to become a regular commentator!).
    We are in fact looking for regular bloggers so if this is something that would interest you please drop me a line.

    Many options, I know… let me know if any appeal to you!


  10. Ken, i have to admit that i hadn’t read your blog till a few days ago. You have a grasp of the facts and happenings in our Great country. Keep it up. Will possibly be at Stanford for a summer fellowship end of July, will look you up. As a former Cal Grad…its painful as you would know:) Anyway, i also run a website, http://www.ipaidabribe.or.ke and would love if you could highlight it on your blog roll.
    Take care and keep up the goodwork.


  11. Nice blog!
    Your name was strangely familiar; I think you were either featured or mentioned in newspapers after I finished primary or high school. You were brilliant and by the look of things you haven’t changed!


  12. This entire BLOG reads like a TNA / KANU / Mt. Kenya Mafia propaganda outfit. I sure hope they are paying you tons of money for this. Else if you wish to be a successful academic or respected professional, this blog is a nail in the coffin of such dreams #disappointed


  13. Hi Ken love your article. can you please provide a contact details to the email address provided below, would like to discuss a business proposal with you thanks.


  14. I enjoyed your article and I do hope that devolution works in Kenya – the concept subsidiarity is not as fashionable in the EU as it was some years ago but in the case of Kenya the domination of all political and economic discourse by the centre can be ameliorated by strong local administration. A distinct Kenyan model could well evolve and let us hope that all stakeholders have the opportunity ( and courage, dare I say) to tweak the devolution model.

    I am Irish and our shared colonial past has alway fascinated me. I love Kenya and look forward to visiting Kenya soon again and reading your blogs.


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